Fergie keeps on winning... he's simply the best
HOW does he do it? Time and time again, Alex Ferguson shuffles the deck and comes up with a team and a strategy which wins trophies. He's been doing it for so long now that nobody can question his status as the very best.
In football terms he's a genius. Like Shankly, Paisley, Clough or any of the other great managers down through the years, he can tap into something that nobody else sees or understands but, in Fergie's case, he's done it for so long now that nobody can argue with his claim to being the best there ever was.
It's foolish to compare managers from different eras, unfair to judge men who worked in different circumstances, but Fergie has covered all the bases.
All of the great managers in history did their work at a time when footballers were easier to deal with, when players mostly knew their place and knew their limits.
I've sat with men like Ron Yeates and Ian St John over the years at the bar and asked them about Shanks and what it was he did that made Liverpool such an extraordinary club.
They spoke about the idea of team building and how Shankly was able to constantly reinvent his team -- no matter what cast of characters he had to deal with.
Ferguson has the same remarkable ability. Hand him a group of players and he will find a way to make them win. He's had the most docile, cooperative lads like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs with him but he's also had the complete opposite and never missed a beat.
He takes on players like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and Christian Ronaldo and gets the best out of them before he moves them on and finds new heroes, new sparks of inspiration.
I lived and played through Paisley and Dalglish, and saw what a team can do when most of the circumstances are right and a group of players come together in the best possible way.
But I've watched Ferguson cobble together teams in the most difficult circumstances for a manager and yet he still wins -- often against a better team.
More than that, he's done it through different eras. He did it with Aberdeen when nobody had any right to overcome the Old Firm and yet he did.
Compare the midfield he had when Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and GIggs were in their pomp with the four he put out against Aston Villa at Wembley yesterday. Not even close, yet Ferguson still found a way for his players to beat Villa and stick another trophy in the Old Trafford Hall of Fame.
This is what makes Ferguson stand out from the herd. No matter what the circumstances, no matter how classy the opposition, Ferguson finds a way to make his players believe they can win every important game.
He believes implicitly that his team will win every game and that's why he looks so annoyed when Manchester United lose. It's simply not part of the schedule and he refuses to accept defeat in the way that most managers do.
How long can he go on? As long as he feels the hunger and the passion, and that could be for a very long time. Age is no barrier to Alex Ferguson -- that is now obvious to everyone.
In this generation, he may well have found his most willing and effective foil yet. Roy Keane was his manager's shadow on the pitch but he had his own demons and his own priorities. Wayne Rooney is a blank canvas in comparison.
In the past few weeks we have seen Rooney emerge as the natural leader Manchester United have been missing ever since Keane left for Celtic, and I have no doubt that Ferguson is making plans for the next two or three years around the best player in Europe.
For me, Paisley was the very best I've ever come across on a personal and admittedly biased level, mainly because of the impact he had on the European Cup.
But I have to say, if I was a player now or over the past decade or so, I can't think of a manager other than Ferguson who I would want to play for and with. Give him some more time and he will establish a record that is simply untouchable.